'We will miss you': Sweet Tomatoes confirms it's closing all locations permanently due to pandemic

Sweet Tomatoes posted a goodbye message on their website Saturday morning to confirm that they are keeping their doors closed permanently after shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Word got out on social media on Friday about the company closing all 97 locations of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, including those in Florida. CEO John Haywood had confirmed to the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday, People reported, but no official statement was released. 

On their website, Sweet Tomatoes wrote the following:

"As you may have heard, we are unable to reopen our 97 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The outpouring of love on social media has been overwhelming and we are so grateful to all of the sweet memories you have shared with us. We would like to thank our 4,400 team members for their dedication and love they have show to our local communities. We will miss you tremendously and wish you all the best."

Haywood said the company has been losing about $1 million a week after shutting down in mid-March due to the global pandemic. 

“The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” Haywood said. “The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it."

RELATED: Will buffets survive in a COVID-19 world? 

The move will affect more than 4,000 employees who will essentially be laid off. 

The all-you-can eat restaurant is known for its signature salad bar, house-made soups, focaccia pizza, baked potato bar, pastas, and soft-serve ice cream. 

The first Florida location opened in 1990 in Palm Harbor and they have several around the state including in Orlando and Kissimmee.